Tag Archives: studying for the bar

5 Tips for Making the Most of MBE Practice Exams

One of the most dreaded parts of the bar exam is the Multistate Bar Exam, or MBE. Everyone who takes the bar exam takes the MBE on the Wednesday of their exam period, except bar takers in Puerto Rico and Louisiana. By this point in your bar exam preparations, you know that the MBE consists of 200 multiple choice questions, and 190 of those questions are actually scored.

Many law students and bar takers find multiple choice questions more intimidating than essay questions. Here are five suggestions for make the most out of your MBE studies:

First, it is impossible to do well on the MBE if you do not know the underlying law. Although it is important to practice taking MBE questions, if you do not know the law upon which the questions are based you will have limited success. You need to study your bar prep materials for each subject, review your outlines, and memorize the black letter law (maybe by creating flashcards, as I’ve discussed previously). Only after you feel like you have a good basic grasp of the material should you start doing practice MBE questions on that topic.

Second, you need to think about your approach to each question. MBE questions are like many of the multiple choice questions you were exposed to during law school. The questions instruct you to choose the best answer—which means that there technically might be more than one correct answer. As I’ve discussed before, there are specific techniques you can use to help you narrow down the best answer to multiple choice questions. Develop a strategy for how you will tackle the MBE.

Third, numbers matter—it is important to practice MBE questions over and over. The more questions you do over time, the more you will understand how the bar examiners have constructed the questions. You will become more proficient at reading questions because of that understanding. You also will be able to gauge your progress in your studies based upon your degree of success on each set of practice questions.

Fourth, it is important to simulate the actual conditions for the exam. You don’t have to do this every time you take practice questions, but it is a very different thing to take a 20-question practice exam versus spending an entire day taking 200 multiple choice questions. Part of what makes the bar exam challenging is the physical side of taking it—you will be sitting hunched at a table all day filling in bubble sheets with a pencil, and that can be physically taxing. You should also keep in mind the amount of time you will have per question. You will have about 1.8 minutes per multiple choice question on the bar exam—try to apply that standard to your practice questions so that you train yourself to manage your time on the MBE.

Finally, you need to remember that answering the practice MBE questions is only half of the process. To get the most out of your practice sessions, you should review carefully the answers and explanations that go along with those questions. I recommend allowing at least the same amount of time to review the answers and explanations as you devote to taking the practice exam in the first place. As you review your results, take note of why you missed each question. If it is a matter of not knowing the law well enough, then make studying that legal issue a priority in your studies. If you chose a correct answer but not the best answer, then determine what made the other answer better. If you missed key facts in the question, that may be a sign that you are reading the question too quickly and need to slow down. The key is to learn from wrong answers so that you do not make the same mistakes again in the future.

Ultimately, one of the keys to success on the MBE is practice, practice, practice. Set aside the time to do it right, and you will reap the results of your efforts.

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Motivation Techniques for Studying for the Bar Exam

Although the time that you spend studying for the bar exam is not that long when compared to many other things you have done as a law student, it is an intensive, stressful, and often monotonous process. In the first days and weeks of bar prep, it can be relatively easy to stay focused on what you need to accomplish, but, as time goes on, it may be harder and harder to motivate yourself to spend the amount of time studying that is really required for success on the bar exam. At this point in the summer, it may be time to add some motivational techniques to your study plan.

Reward System

One way to motivate yourself as you study is to create a reward system. For example, some law students have already developed a reward system that is easily adapted to studying for the bar. In this system, the student chooses some type of snack system—it could be M&Ms, gummy bears, pistachios, blueberries, or something else that is small and appealing to you. One item is placed next to each paragraph, page, section, etc. of the study materials, depending upon how often you want to reward yourself. As you finish that part of your reading, you then get to eat your snack reward.

Another way to approach the reward system is to think of something that you really enjoy doing. Some examples might include: going to a movie; playing a video game; getting a pedicure; or going to the zoo or a museum. Set a “price” for that experience, in the form of points. Then determine how many points you can earn for various study activities. Study away and start racking up the points! Once you have earned enough points, you can “cash” them in for a little study break.

Giving yourself something to look forward to, however small, can be a great way of infusing new purpose into your studies.

Improved Study Environment

Another way to motivate yourself is to figure out a way to improve your study environment. Once again, this is a technique that gives you something to look forward to as you study. Maybe you love coffee—you might get yourself a gourmet bean that you only allow yourself to brew when you are studying for the bar exam. If tea is your thing, you might splurge on a special loose leaf tea and even make the brewing process part of your de-stress routine. It might be a special snack, or a lunch item that you look forward to. Or maybe it is a particular pen that is more expensive, but the smooth flow of the ink, or maybe its color, satisfies something inside of you. (Some people adopt inexpensive fountain pens, for example.)

Whatever it is, knowing that you have something special that you like but only get when you are studying can provide additional motivation for bar studies.

Accountability System

Finally, as we’ve discussed previously, creating accountability can be a great way of motivating yourself as you study for the bar. Approach a friend who is also in the midst of bar prep, and create a system with that person so that you check in each day and see how things are going. It’s amazing how, when you set goals and articulate them to someone else, you are inspired to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.

Whatever approach you decide to take, focus on motivating yourself to work hard at your bar studies. I’ve never heard bar takers say that they regretted studying hard for the bar, but I have heard those who failed the bar exam say that they wished they’d pushed harder.

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Filed under Bar Exam, General, Stress and Mental Health, Study Tips